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Face/Eye ProtectionUnless you are playing in a league or under the rules of a sanctioning body (such as USA Hockey in the US) you may play without any facial or mouth protection. It's not smart to do that, but there are players who believe that wearing any type of face protection cuts down on visibility in general and peripheral vision in particular. To a degree they are correct. But since we aren't playing in the NHL, I don't think their reasoning justifies the risk of serious injury or death.
ShieldsShields come in various shapes, sizes, and tints. There are full-shields (which only come down to just above the mouth), and half-shields which come down to just above the nose. Your face may vary.
Wearing a shield is better than nothing, and for practice and stick-time it is what I wear (you can blow your nose with a shield on, you can't with any other type of face protection). When wearing a shield-only stay away from the net when others are shooting, especially when they are taking slap-shots, which for most amateur players are wildly inaccurate, and more likely to hit someone unintentionally.
CagesThe simplest and cheapest full-face protection available, and also the hardest to see through. You can't blow your nose wearing a cage: you must unsnap it and pivot it up.
Helmets can be purchased as a "combo" which includes a cage, and the costs is generally less than buying each item separately. The cage is easy to remove for non-sanctioned games if desired.
Fishbowls"Fishbowl" is the name used to describe the full-face protection that utilizes a poly-carbonate lens (a shield) on the upper portion combined with a polycarbonate or steel cage on the lower portion. Manufacturers have more flattering names for their products.
The Bauer ReCon Full Shield (formerly made by Itech which Bauer purchased) features optically correct, tool-less-replaceable lenses. To see it go here. It costs $99.99. I use this shield for league play where full face protection is required. A two-lens replacement kit (Bauer RX2 Optical Replacement Lens 2-pack) costs $49.99.
The Bauer Concept II Sr. Full Shield is similar to the ReCon except the lens is not optically correct and is non-replaceable. It is $49.99
The Bauer 920 Deluxe Combo Full Facial Protector is a hybrid. It has a shield protecting the eyes and a cage protecting the jaw/mouth. It is priced at $52.99. This is a good choice for maximum visibility and facial protection.
If you plan on using a shield as facial protection buy a helmet bag to store and transport your helmet. It will prevent the shield from getting scratched.
Mouth ProtectionIn addition to protecting your teeth and gums, a good mouth guard also lessens the risk of a concussion by keeping the jaw in place during an impact. Sounds unbelievable but it's true.
Mouth GuardsThere are literally dozens of manufacturers for off-the-shelf "customizable" and non-customizable mouth guards. While these are better than nothing, and inexpensive, they offer the least protection to the teeth and the least protection against concussions.
The customizable versions are all the same in concept. You heat some water, place the mouth guard into the water to soften it, rinse it briefly under cool water (so you don't burn your mouth) and then place it in your mouth and bite down on it for a specified period of time. What you end up with is a mouth guard that sort of fits.
Custom Mouth GuardsYou can get an orthodontist to make you a custom mouth guard for between $400-$500 dollars. Or you can purchase a custom mouth guard kit from Shock Doctor. You can buy a kit from Amazon and save money from the list price of $149.99. You can also purchase it from Hockey Monkey or several other online hockey outlets.
I like this mouth guard so much I bought a second one as a spare. It fits perfectly and it allows me to speak (somewhat) normally, and drink fluids.
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